Can This Safety Situation Be Fixed? Looking at the requirements of Section 210.63

Published On
Oct 15, 2022

A really good friend who is one of the top National Electrical Code experts called me with a question about Section 210.63(B)(2) of the 2020 NEC. After discussing the issue in detail, I believe there is a problem in the 2020 and 2023 NEC. Let’s take a close look at the requirements in 210.63 in total and then we can look specifically at the main issue in 210.63(B)(2).

What the text says

In Section 210.63, “Equipment Requiring Servicing,” the introductory text states that a 125V, single-phase, 15A- or 20A-rated receptacle outlet shall be installed at an accessible location within 25 feet of the equipment specified in 210.63(A) and (B). Section 210.63(A) covers heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment, and states that the required receptacle outlet must be located on the same level of the roof or at ground level as the equipment.

It further states that the receptacle outlet cannot be connected to the load side of the equipment’s branch-circuit disconnecting means. There is an exception that frees this receptacle outlet requirement at one- and two-family dwellings for service of evaporative coolers.

The purpose is to provide a permanently installed receptacle within 25 feet of the equipment on the same level of the roof or at ground level as the equipment for service personnel. This outlet cannot be connected to the load side of the air-conditioning disconnecting means, since the service person would normally shut the power off to the air-conditioning unit and would need the service receptacle to still be powered.

In the 2020 NEC , new subsections 210.63(B)(1) and (B)(2) were added. The introductory text in 210.63(B) states, “In other than one- and two-family dwellings, a receptacle outlet shall be located as specified in 210.63(B)(1) and (B)(2).”

There isn’t a question about 210.63(B)(1) covering indoor service equipment: “The required receptacle outlet must be located within the same room or area as the service equipment.”

This receptacle requirement makes sense for services located inside the building just in case receptacle power would be needed for work on the service equipment.

The apartment problem

In the case of an apartment complex, 210.25 covers “Branch Circuits in Buildings with More Than One Occupancy.” Section 210.25(A) for dwelling unit branch circuits, states that branch circuits in each dwelling unit shall supply only loads within that dwelling unit or loads associated only with it. For common area branch circuits, a house panel would normally be required based on the text in 210.25(B).

The actual text is, “Branch circuits installed for lighting, central alarm, signal, communications, or other purposes for public or common areas of a two-family dwelling, a multifamily dwelling, or a multi-occupancy building shall not be supplied from equipment that supplies an individual dwelling unit or tenant space.”

An informational note reads: “Examples of public or common areas include, but are not limited to, lobbies, corridors, stairways, laundry rooms, roofs, elevators, washrooms, store rooms, driveways (parking), and mechanical rooms.”

Here’s the problem

Now we get back to the problem in 210.63(B)(2), “Indoor Equipment Requiring Dedicated Equipment Spaces” in the 2020 NEC . The text states, “where equipment, other than service equipment, requires dedicated equipment space as specified in 110.26(E), the required receptacle outlet shall be located within the same room or area as the electrical equipment and shall not be connected to the load side of the equipment’s branch-circuit disconnecting means.”

In the 2023 NEC , “branch-circuit” was removed without fixing the issue. In an apartment complex, with a feeder panelboard in each apartment, a receptacle outlet would be required for each panelboard location, and it could not be supplied from the load side of the equipment in the apartment. Section 210.25(A) states that branch circuits in each dwelling unit shall supply only loads within that dwelling unit or loads associated only with it.

Section 210.25(B) states that public or common areas of a two-family, multifamily or multi-occupancy building shall not be supplied from equipment that supplies an individual dwelling unit or tenant space. If a house panel is installed to supply a receptacle outlet for each panelboard in every apartment, this would be a violation of 210.25(A) and (B).

If supplied by a separate circuit from a house panel, this would be a safety issue, since the branch circuit for that receptacle would be from a source outside the apartment. Turning power “off” for that apartment would not disconnect the power to that receptacle. In addition, the occupants of each apartment would have a “free power” receptacle to supply power for any load with someone else paying for the power. There should be a Tentative Interim Amendment submitted for this application, since compliance with 210.63(B)(2) cannot be accomplished without violating the requirements in 210.25(A) and (B) and creating a possibly dangerous situation.

About the Author

Mark C. Ode

Fire/Life Safety, Residential and Code Contributor

Mark C. Ode is a lead engineering associate for Energy & Power Technologies at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and can be reached at 919.949.2576 and Mark.C.Ode@ul.com.

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